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[–] 896154? 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago 

I am finishing up a doctorate in chemistry at the moment so I have three pointers for you.

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My best advice is make friends or at least acquaintances with everyone around you. I mean everyone, profs, other grad students, and technicians for every lab and instrument in your department and related departments (chem, physics, engineering) Know what research they do, what equipment they have, and what they and their labs are capable of.

You can only do so much, so take the time to think about and identify the people around you and in what capacity you could collaborate with them. This is by far the best way to get more done, while getting more chances for publications as first or second author.

The biggest mistake I see with science grad students around me are that they isolate themselves instead of integrating themselves.

That being said, it is also important to identify the people who make promises but never deliver. They are everywhere. And additionally, try not to over extend yourself. Try to have around 3 or 4 major projects you are working on as second or first author at all times.

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My second best advice is if you have an idea and your supervisor says no. You should do it anyways. (provided it is safe, and not overly expensive) if it fails you clean up and never mention it. If it succeeds you process the data and present it to your prof.

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Lastly, although science requires rigorous formal investigations controlling numerous variables, you should still be doing very simple informal experiments and tests almost every day. If the results are positive, it gives you a starting point to design a thorough experiment.

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[–] BSL5 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

Your second piece of advice is great. Sometimes you really have a gut feeling that you can't convey to your advisor, and it's awesome when it works out. Granted, they're often right, but like you said, as long as it's cheap and doesn't take much time, it never happened.

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[–] jenkinsc11 [S] 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

That awesome advice thank you! I am pretty outgoing and I dont think I will have a problem making connections which seems like a big part of it. Although, I thought in grad school that you pick one advisor and work with them throughout your tour. You have the opportunity to work on multiple projects? Sorry for my ignorance, I havent even had my orientation yet.

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[–] 958209? 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

Yes you will have a specific supervisor that you work for and the project(s) you do for them are always priority 1.

Your project will grow and change with time, and as you discover things and create new ideas it will spawn new side projects.

Some of the people around you will become very useful as the lab you work in won't be able to do everything and vice versa. Keep in mind not to over extend yourself, if you gain a reputation as the guy who never finishes a project, your colleges won't want to work with you and you will miss out on some opportunists.

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[–] iburnaga 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

Make sure you remember to rest and relax sometimes.

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[–] jenkinsc11 [S] 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

That seems like the general consensus lol. I gotta find time for the occasional beer or 2.

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[–] intono 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

I'm starting my Ph.D. in September as well! Good luck!

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[–] jenkinsc11 [S] 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

Best of luck to you as well!

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[–] BSL5 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

After writing this I realized I'm making grad school sound really crappy. I promise it's not. I'm nearing the end of my PhD, and I absolutely love it. It's going to be awesome, and you're going to be awesome. That being said:

It's ok to fail. It's ok to feel like the dumbest person in the room all the time (the imposter syndrome is very real in grad school). You don't have to be the best, or the second best, or even the 10th best.

A lot of my fellow PhD students were hit pretty hard because they were used to being the top of their class, and were suddenly in an environment where everyone else was at the top of their class. I failed the shit out of my first couple exams in grad school. I'm a grown man, but you can bet your ass that I cried then, and several more times over the next couple of years. Eventually though, you realize that the people around you are really REALLY smart, and just because you're not the best of them, you're still really damn smart.

The people who succeed in a PhD program are those who can keep moving forward even in the shittiest of times. Just remember, when it gets really bad, just keep pushing, you're a badass, and you're going to kick science's ass. On a serious note, if you're going to have a mental breakdown, talk to someone about it. Get help. There's no shame in breaking down, plenty of my friends here went through it, and they're stronger now because of it.

Granted, there are the lucky few for whom every experiment seems to work magically, and publications and awards fall into their lap because their project, just by chance, happened to work perfectly. I've known these people too, and while they have a kickass resume/CV at the time of graduation, I fear that they haven't been battle-hardened like the rest of us, and it may bite them when they run into their first mega-failure later in life.

Just don't lose sight of what got you interested in chemistry or science to begin with. Also, try not to take anything too seriously.

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[–] jenkinsc11 [S] 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

I seriously wish I could grant you the voat version of gold. I feel a lot more ready to take on grad school after reading your message. Saved and going to share this with a few of my friends. Thanks again!

I have sometimes felt that I was the stupidest kid in my class sometimes but I never knew about the imposter syndrome. Are there many people who you have delta with that just look down upon you?

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[–] BSL5 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

No problem, glad I could help!

It's not really that people look down on you, or are direct about making you feel stupid (though there is the occasional dick that you might come across - they're not worth your time). It's usually just a mindset that you put yourself into, which means it's very avoidable/treatable if you realize you're doing it to yourself.

Don't worry if you don't know something. If you already knew everything, there would be no reason to go to grad school. In general, people are very understanding if you don't know something, and are able to admit it. I mean, you definitely want to try to reason things out with what you do know, to demonstrate your knowledge and problem solving abilities, rather than just immediately claiming ignorance. But, if you try to pretend/argue that you know what you're talking about when you actually don't, you will be destroyed.

I guess that last part is more useful for general exams/defense type situation. Professors can smell bullshit from miles away.

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[–] ElementaryMyDeer 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

First off congratulations!

To add on to the advice that is already here, I would recommend three things:

1) Pick an advisor you can get along with. This does not mean you have to be best friends, but find a mentor who you can at least talk with, or if that isn't possible, at the least someone who has a management style you can deal with. This will make for a much more enjoyable time in graduate school.

2) Find a lab you feel comfortable in, and by this I mean find a group of people you don't mind spending most of your day with. Each lab comes with it's own atmosphere or vibe. Again, you don't have to be best friends, but at least work with people you enjoy and can talk to during those long days.

3) Find a hobby outside of your research. Chemistry is great and all, but there are days when nothing works and you'll need to clear your head. I found that if you pick something you can make progress in, it helps out quite a bit. It gets frustrating when you go no where in lab, so if you can make progress in something else, it helps out just a little.

Besides that I would say just be open to everything, ask questions, be kind and respectful, and enjoy yourself!

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[–] standardgirl 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

I don't have any advice since I enjoy this sub without even a bachelor degree in the sciences, but just want to say congratulations!! I hope you'll be able to contribute to my expanding my own knowledge through this sub in the future.